It’s hard being vulnerable in a society that thrives on celebrating strength and hiding anything that by general consensus is termed “failure”. With most people being more judgmental than helpful, it’s easy to see why airing issues would get more Please-hide-your-dirty-linen comments than actual sympathy. A lot of people sink into the quagmire that is life due to this lack of sympathy, and only precious few find ways to escape the darkness, embrace their shortcomings, and learn to work with their experiences to mold their future.
Elizabeth Adeola Ayoola is one such people who fall into the latter bracket. Her book, The Naked Butterfly is filled with stories, life lessons and inspirational poems that spill deep, dark secrets. The book follows an autobiographical fashion but instead of settling over her life in general, we’re immersed in experiences encompassing womanhood. Some of the narratives explored include societal expectations, the opposite sex, valuing herself as a person, and sex.
From being a rebellious teen to dating a convict, to almost selling herself as a sex worker, her stories are enough to send any Nigerian parent to the grave. Without understanding her situation, you’d easily label her the troublesome kind, presented in many cultures as being possessed by whatever demons they fancy. However, turns out most of her actions were a cry for help. Being a black kid in a white neighbourhood and growing up the child of a pastor must have been hard.
I could relate to many stories, but in talking about earlier times in her life, I saw that she mostly passed the buck of whatever situation she found herself in to others. I know we all do that in some way, but her denial and lack of responsibility were unsettling. It irked me till I got to later chapters where her writing showed she was taking back her life, owning her actions, and learning to talk to others and God about her situation.
Her work was refreshing for its ability to explore unknowns, however, as I read the book, realization dawned that I’m part of the “Don’t (always) wash your dirty linen in public” crew. It’s more subconscious than a real effort, but it’s still there, and it’s shameful judgment coming from someone who has her share of filthy linens. Going forward, I’d have to make a more conscious effort to empathize and help when it’s needed.
It’s true that most writers are inspired by past experience, however, a lot of them paint the dark moments in ways that take the raw element out of them. Ayoola did none of that. She was open, a butterfly shedding its cocoon in full view of the world. I like that she is trying to reach out to ladies everywhere who feel burdened by pressures of the world. Her dedication reads:
“I dedicate this book to every girl, lady and young woman who has ever been lost, is presently lost, or will one day find herself wandering in frustration and feeling adrift on the raging seas of this life. It’s okay to be lost. In fact it’s the most effective and authentic way to achieve one of life’s most important and elusive goals—the empowering delight of discovering who you truly are.”
Feeling lost on your journey to self-discovery? Download a copy of The Naked Butterfly from the OkadaBooks store now. It’s a powerfully strong book that teaches relevant lessons on overcoming fear and inner demons.
Chiamaka Onu-Okpara is a freelance editor with an absolute love for anything weird. When she isn’t wading through punctuation errors, she binge-watches cartoons and writes speculative fiction and poetry.